Stepping Down as Manager of the Madison Farmers’ Market

friends at market

After 6 long years, the time has finally come: I am stepping down as manager of the Madison Farmers’ Market. This was a difficult decision for me, but with Runamuk’s new #foreverfarm home, I feel confident that I am making the right move for me. I’m looking forward to devoting all of my time and energy to Runamuk, and to bringing my vision for a pollinator conservation center to life.

Why Volunteer?

For the last 10 years I’ve given my time and energy to a number of local organizations, trying to do my part to support my community, striving to be the change I want to see in the world. I truly believe community involvement is important─not just for the community, but also for ourselves. Volunteering your time and energy for a cause helps you grow as a person, you learn new things, meet new people, and are intrinsically rewarded for the service you do. I really think everyone should be involved somehow in something that matters to them.

Volunteer-work is also a good way for someone to establish credibility in their community, build a reputation and network with new people. For me, it was a powerful tool in growing Runamuk; people in this region of Maine have come to associate me with Runamuk, and Runamuk with bees and bee-conservation. I strongly encourage beginning farmers wanting to break into the market (or any person looking to make a name for themselves) to seek out ways to get involved with the community you will be serving─get to know the people and learn what gaps exist that you could fill, or seize unexpected opportunities that might present themselves through associations with the locals.

Serving the Madison Farmers’ Market

For me, it all started with the Master Gardeners’ program at my local cooperative extension. From there I went on to establish the Somerset Beekeepers and served as president of that group for 6 years. I served as a 4H leader for a time, and of course, there’s my service to the Madison Farmers’ Market. I know that many of the opportunities I have had, would not have been presented to me had I not put myself out there, given of my time and energies to these programs and my community.

Of all of those programs and services, the Madison Farmers’ Market is the one that is nearest and dearest my heart. Facilitating local food in my hometown, supporting local agriculture in this region where I grew up, and just getting to know my community on a very personal level─has had a profound impact on my life.

maine regions map
Madison on the Maine map.

For those who are not from the area, Madison is a fairly rural town, located along the banks of the Kennebec River, in what is known as the Kennebec & Moose River Valley Region of Maine. Even with fewer than 5 thousand inhabitants, Madison is a mecca for the many outlying villages that are scattered throughout the Foothills and the closest access to a grocery store, banks and gas stations.

At the Madison Farmers’ Market, not only have we cultivated meaningful friendships between fellow farmers, we’ve also developed some strong relationships with the locals of Madison, and it’s “sister-city”, Anson, just on the other side of the river. We’ve met people from the villages of Starks, Embden, and North Anson. One woman comes from as far north as Salem (an unincorporated Maine township located 10 or so miles north-westerly from Kingfield) to visit the market. These relationships, and getting to know the people of the area where I was born and raised, where I have chosen to stay and raise my own children─these are what I treasure most about being a part of the Madison Farmers’ Market.

I’ve learned so much about farming and growing food just by spending my Saturdays peddling my wares in the parking lot at the Main Street Park in Madison, Maine. Sitting there in all types of weather, with my comrades in arms (just figuratively, lol!), discussing all manner of topics, learning from each other as we offer locally produced foods and goods to the people.

Though I am stepping down as market-manager, Runamuk will continue as a member of the market, and dedicated patrons will still be able to find me at the Madison Farmers’ Market every Saturday selling my wares.

Some Highlights From My Career as Market-Manager

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ISO Volunteers

So who will step up to fill my shoes? What will happen to the Madison Farmers’ Market now that Sam is stepping down?

That I can’t say….

Currently the Madison Farmers’ Market is in search of a volunteer─or better yet: a group of volunteers─who can take on the responsibilities of the market duties. There is the possibility of a stipend for a “market-manager”, though I do not know yet how much that stipend might be. What we’d really like to see is a committee, made up of at least 3 volunteers: a treasurer, secretary/marketing person, and an EBT-point person who will spearhead the Maine Harvest Bucks program for the community (the program that allows the market to offer EBT/SNAP shoppers bonus-dollars for purchase of fruits and vegetables).

Without help the Madison Farmers’ Market will no longer be able to accept credit, debit, or EBT cards at the market, and we will surely have to relinquish the Maine Harvest Bucks program.

Serve Your Community!

If you’re reading this from the Madison-Anson area and are interested in supporting local agriculture─consider giving of yourself to the Madison Farmers’ Market. If you have a passion for increasing local food access, serve your community by serving it’s farmers’ market. And most definitely, if you’re a beginning farmer in the Kennebec & Moose River Valley Region of Maine, think about building your reputation by getting involved the Madison Farmers’ Market.

Even if you’re located elsewhere, I still encourage you to participate somehow in your local community. Many wonderful services and programs exist only because of the people who freely give of their time and of themselves to facilitate them. What’s more, you’ll be enriching your own life at the same time. But (in the words of Levar Burton from Reading Rainbow) “You don’t have to take my word for it.” Get involved today and find out for yourself!

Please share this post to help the Madison Farmers’ Market find new volunteers so that we can keep our special services going for the people of Madison-Anson and the surrounding rural areas. Thanks for following along with the story of this female farmer!

Miner’s Creek at the FarmRaiser Party

miners creek

I’m pleased to announce that the Miner’s Creek Bluegrass Band will be playing at the Runamuk FarmRaiser barn party on Sunday, October 1st!

Miners Creek Bluegrass BandYou might not know this about me, but I have a strong affinity for bluegrass and folksy music. I have an eclectic taste in music, but bluegrass above all else is my favorite. I enjoy it so much that I’ve recently taken up the banjo and am learning to play an instrument for the first time in my life!

Last Sunday I attended the Billy’s Belly Bluegrass Festival in North Anson, largely to support my friends Sonia and Eden from Hide & Go Peep Farm who were contestants in the festival, but also for the pure joy of seeing and listening to the music of some great bands. It was a wonderful time and I connected with a number of people there, promoting the FarmRaiser campaign and inviting the community to the big party.

I was also scouting for a band. Here I was promoting this all-important event, and I had no music lined up yet!

Enter the Miner’s Creek Bluegrass Band.

I had a very small list of bands, and the task of securing music for the barn party was made more challenging by the fact that I’m working on a shoestring budget. I’m trying to spend as little as possible on the event and the perks for the campaign so that more of my own money can go directly into securing my farm. The gofundme is fundraising for the down-payment, but there are still many other small (and not so small) costs to farm-ownership, and this is just the beginning.

I reached out to Resa Randolph, a member of Miner’s Creek, and put forth my proposal. I told her I had seen them at Billy’s Belly and loved their music, and pointed out that I had been the one assailing everyone with flyers. I told her I have a music budget of only $200─I said: I know it’s not much, but it’s a lot to me. And it’s for a good cause.

Wouldn’t you know it─Resa’s cousin Alicia is the found of the Maryland Bee Sanctuary!!! Resa went on to say that she is:

a staunch believer in letting meadows be meadows and getting rid of lawn mowers.

They were in!

Everything is lining up nicely. The acoustics in the Hilton’s barn are great; the music is going to sound amazing. The atmosphere there is welcoming and comfortable, with the rustic rough-hewn barn beams and the broad wooden planking on the floors, with hay bales along the wall and a view across the pastures looking on the western Maine mountains from the back deck. I can hardly wait to have all of my friends, family and community there with good food, good brew (we’ll have beer from Mainely Brews!) and good music.

This event is supposed to be a fundraiser─and don’t tell my partner this, but in a big way─for me─it’s become about giving back to all those who have supported me over the years. It’s about all of these connections I’ve made through my work as a pollinator conservationist and as a local food advocate, and bringing them together to share this beautiful thing that we have all created together. And we have created─not just Runamuk and an increased awareness of bees and pollinators, but the Madison Farmers’ Market and a renewed sense of community there. Together we have cultivated agriculture here in a part of Maine that is economically depressed and in dire need of rejuvenation.

I believe that farming is the revitalization that we need. I hope you’ll join me on Sunday, October 1st from 5pm to 8pm at the Hyl-Tun Farm on Rt 43 in Starks for the Runamuk FarmRaiser. I’d love to see you there!

Stay tuned! More coming soon!!!